The question that was never asked, what would the love child of a Land Rover and a Jaguar look like, has been answered with the 2012 Range Rover Evoque. Eschewing the brute force of the big Land Rover models, the Evoque proves its worth on asphalt, whether as stylish urban transport or making time over a winding road.
It carries the Land Rover badge, a suggestion of who wears the pants in the family, and boasts off-road capability. It has all-wheel drive and Land Rover's Terrain Response System, which lets the driver select programs for mud, sand, and other difficult surfaces, snow being the most likely for the Evoque's demographic.
An adaptive suspension package is available, but it is a magnetic ride system, the kind that stiffens the shock absorber fluid and provides excellent handling when you're hammering the car through a paved turn. That type of driving is more Jaguar than Land Rover. And the drive selector, a dial that rises up on ignition from the console, is directly from the Jaguar parts bin.
By sticking close to its original concept, Land Rover produced a striking design with the Evoque.
The front of the Evoque carries the Land Rover grille, if on a reduced scale, but the racy side profile retains much of the look of theon which the car is based. And the rear window has the sunglasses look of the new .
It is a good-looking car, and the interior also more than met my expectations of luxury. The Evoque has a simple and well-ordered interior. Thick leather covers the seats and the metal grilles over the speakers look like serious business. White crystals stud the gauge faces and a piece of glass the size of a door serves for a roof.
Looking forward to some quality driving in the Evoque, I took to the mean streets of San Francisco, the fast-moving freeways of California, and twisty back roads through the coastal range. Cruising the city in Drive mode, not touching the paddle shifters, the first thing I noticed was a tendency of the car to lunge. Trying to maintain a steady pace of about 30 mph, I found slight pushes on the gas pedal had the car making uncontrolled leaps forward.
At first thinking this behavior had to do with turbo lag, the engine being a direct-injection turbocharged 2-liter, I tried different speeds and throttle input. But the real culprit seemed to be the six-speed transmission. Going up one of San Francisco's notorious hills, it could not seem to settle on a gear. I got the sense Land Rover programmed it to downshift at just a little throttle, presumably to satiate the power-hungry type A personalities who buy Land Rovers.
Confirming that suspicion is the fact that I recently tested the, which did not exhibit the same behavior. The connection: Land Rover sources the Evoque's engine from Ford. It is a similar direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder, producing 240 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque.
As in the Edge, the EcoBoost engine helps the Evoque get good fuel economy, better than any other Land Rover model. The EPA rating is 18 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. Over CNET's time with the car, I saw an average of 21.8 mpg.
The Evoque uses a dial for its drive selector, similar to Jaguar models, with buttons for selecting different off-road programs.
The tendency to lunge was uncomfortable, but the car was still drivable. And in the dense urban environment, I definitely appreciated its size and excellent turning radius. The ride felt solid, easily soaking up the bumps. There was no softness in the suspension; the tuning felt rigid to give it better cornering performance. As CNET's review car was the low trim, called Pure, it did not have the magnetic suspension control mentioned above, just a fixed system that Land Rover had to tune to the best compromise between sport and comfort.
The higher engine speeds of freeway driving masked any lunging, and the Evoque felt like it would be a nice car for a road trip. Land Rover gives it a full cabin tech suite, although being a smaller company it does not push the envelope as. The center touch-screen LCD defaulted to a home screen, which came off as a bit cluttered with its large buttons for navigation, audio, and the phone system, alongside smaller buttons for a variety of other functions.
Land Rover gives the various menus and onscreen buttons neat animations, easing transitions between screens but at the same time getting in the way of a quick response. I quickly found the setting that let me turn the animations off. But even with that, the touch screen was often slow to respond to button presses. Even entering an address with the onscreen keyboard involved a little wait time.
The car's voice command system turned out to be a pretty good option for using phone, stereo, and navigation. Its most useful feature is the list of available commands that pops up on the screen, so I did not have to sit down for an evening with the manual, memorizing commands like "destination" and "call."
The home screen presents a somewhat confusing array of buttons.
The navigation system's maps, stored on an internal hard drive, were clear and bright, and showed the most recent traffic data captured on FM radio waves. This system dealt with bad traffic situations along my route by popping up dialog boxes asking me to confirm a route change. In a city like Los Angeles, with its very fluid traffic situation, that dialog box would burn its image into the screen.
Although the navigation system gives both male and female voice prompts, it does not do text-to-speech. I got lost a bit because it was not telling me the name of the streets I needed to turn onto, and I was too lazy to look down at the turn graphic on the screen.
Land Rover gives the Evoque a rich collection of audio sources, including iPod integration and satellite radio, onboard hard-drive storage, Bluetooth streaming audio, and HD Radio. I was particularly impressed to see two USB ports in the console, one labeled for iPods and one for USB drives, a distinction that probably was not completely necessary.
The Evoque offers a full range of modern audio sources.
CNET's Evoque came with the upgraded audio system, which raised my expectations with its metal speaker grilles stamped with the Meridian name. Given that it boasts 17 speakers, 2 of which are subwoofers, and an 825-watt amp, I was ready for some fine audiophile music reproduction. The system did well with instrumental separation and clarity, making for some nice detail. But it lacked rich tonality, the music playing through with an uninspired, flat sound.
At first I assumed the system lacked a subwoofer, but looking up the specs disabused me of that idea. The system features three different surround-sound profiles, and I got the feeling it was set up more for video accompaniment than for music reproduction. At volume, the speakers produced hum and rattled the door panels occasionally.
The Evoque may showcase Land Rover's latest technology, but one thing it lacks is any app integration, such as Pandora. It does have a Bluetooth phone system offering phone book integration with a paired phone and dial-by-name capability. But on some of the more tortuous mountain roads I could find, I was well out of cellular range.
Over these twisty roads the Evoque performed admirably. It did not balk at the sudden rises and was easily maneuverable around hairpin turns. With its sport-oriented suspension, it let me cover a lot of distance in a short time, the car never feeling tippy. And it felt narrow enough to share these thin roads with oncoming traffic.
The 2012 Range Rover Evoque's running gear is generally very good, featuring the high-tech and efficient EcoBoost engine from Ford and an all-wheel-drive system with multiple programs. But the transmission displayed awkwardness, hunting for gears and making unexpected downshifts.
The cabin electronics comprise good navigation, phone, and stereo systems, but nothing in this area pushes the car technology envelope. Land Rover has not implemented an app strategy.
The performance of the touch screen and the interface design were both somewhat problematic. But the car itself has all the practicality of a five-seat SUV, and Land Rover kept its design close to that of the concept LRX, making the Evoque one of the better-looking cars on the road.
|Model||2012 Range Rover Evoque|
|Power train||Turbocharged direct-injection 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine, 6-speed automatic transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||18 mpg city/28 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||21.8 mpg|
|Navigation||Optional hard-drive-based system with traffic data integration|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible single-CD/DVD|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Onboard hard drive, Bluetooth audio streaming, USB drive, auxiliary input, satellite radio, HD Radio|
|Audio system||Meridian 825-watt 17-speaker system|
|Driver aids||Surround-view camera, rearview camera|
|Price as tested||$50,695|